Bankruptcy reforms ‘will spur Saudi Arabian investment’

Bankruptcy regulations in line with global standards are a major step in overhauling the Saudi economy, analysts say. (Shutterstock)
Updated 01 August 2018
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Bankruptcy reforms ‘will spur Saudi Arabian investment’

  • Saudi Arabia will introduce its first comprehensive bankruptcy law on Aug. 18
  • The new rules have been drawn up to offer protection to creditors

LONDON: Saudi Arabia will introduce its first comprehensive bankruptcy law on Aug. 18 in a move designed to encourage foreign and domestic investment in private business, experts say.
The move is also seen as providing a boost for competitiveness and jobs, and to help pave the way for the transfer of knowledge and skills as part of a drive to modernize the economy.
Based on internationally recognized insolvency standards, the new rules have been drawn up to offer protection to creditors such as banks, as well as stricken companies that seek to wind up their affairs in an orderly manner, thereby shielding themselves from arbitrary seizure of their assets.
“The new regulations will offer lenders, firms and their executives peace of mind and spur overseas investment in the private sector,” said Dario Najm, an associate in the corporate and M&A practice at BSA Ahmad Bin Hezeem & Associates LLP in Riyadh.
In an interview with Arab News, he said that until now there had been little in the way of “procedural clarity” in the way bankruptcies have been handled in KSA. But this was vital to generate confidence and “bring in foreign direct investment that will help to expand the private sector in line with Vision 2030, and refashion the economy.”
Najm also indicated that many investors were waiting for the new laws to come into force before making KSA investment decisions.
The laws would encourage the creation of new enterprises and medium-sized businesses, by Gulf and overseas entrepreneurs, creating employment for Saudi nationals, Najm said. It would generate confidence that a formal system was in place to liquidate companies that had run into trouble, or allow them time to recover by arranging a debt-repayment schedule.
Jason Tuvey, Middle East economist at Capital Economics, told Arab News that “there is a good chance these latest developments will help to attract more foreign investment, and aid the wider economy in terms of knowledge transfer, which in turn could lead to stronger productivity growth.”
He said that the law would encourage risk-takers to invest capital in new businesses that will help take the country away from its dependency on oil.
“It allows creditors and debtors to enter into agreements to schedule the payment of debts, a measure that will enable indebted corporations to achieve a stable financial status.”
Confirmation that the new bankruptcy law would be implemented in five weeks came from a Saudi Ministry of Commerce and Investment official during a workshop.
Speakers said that the bankruptcy law served an Islamic purpose, which was the preservation of money, and was to be applied according to the best international practices for addressing financial issues, Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper reported.
Majed Al-Rasheed, secretary-general of the Bankruptcy Commission at the Ministry of Commerce and Investment, was quoted as saying the law provided “a set of tools and solutions that regulate the value of the debtor’s assets to be sold at the highest possible price in a short period of time, and this establishes trust in the credit market.”
Maher Saeed, director of the bankruptcy law project, said that the new laws — first outlined in February — included seven chapters for bankruptcy procedures.
The idea was to take into account the circumstances of defaulters and small debtors, providing them with special procedures.
“The law will bolster Saudi national choices emphasized in Vision 2030, which aim to establish a prosperous economy, facilitate business, help investors overcome financial obstacles, and empower debtors,” he said.


Dubai real estate market recovery to be seen as of 2022: S&P

Updated 20 February 2019
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Dubai real estate market recovery to be seen as of 2022: S&P

  • The outlook on property was part of a challenging assessment of the credit-worthiness of the emirate
  • S&P was generally comfortable with the credit ratings of the emirate’s banking system

DUBAI: S&P Global, the ratings agency, painted a grim picture for the real estate sector in Dubai, with a meaningful recovery in property prices expected only after 2022.
At a presentation to journalists in the Dubai International Financial Center, S&P analyst Sapna Jagtiani said that under the firm’s “base case scenario,” the Dubai real estate market would fall by between 5 and 10 percent this year, roughly the same as the fall in 2018, which would bring property prices to the levels seen at the bottom of the last cycle in 2010, in the aftermath of the global financial crisis.
“On the real estate side we continue to have a very grim view of the market. While we expect prices to broadly stabilize in 2020, we don’t see a meaningful recovery in 2021. Relative to the previous recovery cycle, we believe it will take longer time for prices to display a meaningful recovery,” she said.
S&P’s verdict adds to several recent pessimistic assessments of the Dubai real estate market. Jagtiani said that conditions in the other big UAE property market, in Abu Dhabi, were not as negative, because “Abu Dhabi never did ramp up as much in 2014 and 2015 as Dubai.” S&P does not rate developers in the capital.
She added that a “stress scenario” could arise if government and royal family related developers — such as Emaar Properties, Meraas, Dubai Properties and Nakheel — which have attractive land banks and economies of scale, continue to launch new developments.
“In such a scenario, we think residential real estate prices could decline by 10-15 percent in 2019 and a further 5-10 percent in 2020. In this case, we expect no upside for Dubai residential real estate prices in 2021, as we expect it will take a while for the market to absorb oversupply,” she said.
S&P recently downgraded Damac, one of the biggest Dubai-based developers, to BB- rating, on weak market prospects.
However, Jagtiani said that, despite the “significant oversupply” from existing projects, several factors should held stabilize the market: Few, if any, major product launches; improved affordability and “bargain hunting” by bulk buyers; and a resurgence of Asian, especially Chinese, investor interest in the market.
Jagtiani also said that government measures such as new ownership and visa regulations and reduction in government fees could help prevent prices falling more sharply, as well as “increased economic activity related to Dubai Expo 2020, which is expected to attract about 25 million visitors to the emirate.”
The outlook on property was part of a challenging assessment of the credit-worthiness of the emirate. “In our view, credit conditions deteriorated in Dubai in 2018, reducing the government’s ability to provide extraordinary financial support to its government related entities (GREs) if needed,” S&P said in a report. “The negative outlook on Dubai Electricity and Water
Authority (DEWA) partly reflects our concern that a real estate downturn beyond our base case could out increased pressure on government finances,” the report said.
It pointed out that about 70 percent of government revenues come from non-tax sources, including land transfer and mortgage registration fees, as well as charges for housing and municipality liabilities, as well as dividends from real estate developers it controls, like Emaar and Nakheel.
S&P was generally comfortable with the credit ratings of the emirate’s banking system, which has an estimated 20 percent exposure to real estate. “Banks in the UAE tend to generally display a good level of profitability and capitalization, giving them a good margin to absorb a moderate increase in risks,” the report said.